SEOUL, May 23 (UPI) -- South Korea can now hold U.S. soldiers charged with serious crimes before they are formally charged, officials said Wednesday.
The United States and South Korea agreed to a change in the Status of Forces Agreement, the Yonhap news agency reported. Previously, South Korea had to indict U.S. military personnel within 24 hours of arrest, effectively protecting anyone who was not literally caught in the act of committing a crime.
"It will help our investigation authorities conduct an investigation more effectively, thereby contributing to strengthening our criminal jurisdiction," an official who did not want to be named said of the change.
About 28,500 U.S. soldiers are currently stationed in South Korea. In two recent high-profile cases, soldiers were charged with sexual assaults on young women.
The U.S. military negotiates separate agreements in countries where troops are based that generally give civilian courts jurisdiction over non-military crimes.
Lee Baek-soon, director-general of the foreign ministry's North American Affairs Bureau, and Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas,
deputy commander of U.S. forces in the country, agreed to the change, the foreign ministry said.